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Aphasia: A fallout of a brain attack

Aphasia is an acquired inability to communicate, a common consequence of a brain attack. When the two areas on the left side of the brain, which control speech and comprehension are impaired we may lose all or several abilities like understanding, speaking, writing and reading. Aphasiais not a disease: it is a symptom of brain damage that commonly occurs among adults who have suffered a stroke or brain attack, particularly affecting the left side of the brain. Aphasia signals the onset of acute stroke, a warningof an impending brain attack that requires emergency medical attention. Early identification (within six hours) and proper treatment by stroke specialists can significantly improve the outcome of aphasia.

Since the wiring in each person’s brain is unique, aphasia’s symptoms may not be the same in any two individuals. Aphasias can be divided into four main groups; exact type will depend on the area of the brain damaged during a brain attack:

  1. Expressive aphasia: patients understand others, know what to say, but cannot utter the words. They may be able to communicate well by writing or typing on a phone.
  2. Receptive aphasia: Patients neither understand others nor know what to say. They tend to mumble meaningless words continuously. The severely affected cannot communicate at all either by reading or writing.
  3. Anomic aphasia: both understand and talk; but cannot remember names of objects, persons, places or events.
  4. Global aphasia: patients are neither able to understand nor speak even a single word. They cannot read, write or type.

Patients affected by aphasia following a stroke can recover fully depending on the extent of brain damage and an individual brain’s connection networks. To treat aphasia effectively medicines need to be accompanied by well-structured speech therapy and family support.Individual and group therapies in conjunction with support group sessions and intonation, music and art therapies aid recovery. Constraint-induced language therapy is an alternative treatment option. In this a patient is placed in a situation where ‘speaking’ is the only available option for communication. Support from community and work place colleagues are of great help in improving a patient’s impaired language skills.

Communication tips for patients with aphasia:

  1. Always keep a pen and paper/small notebook. However, beware that continuous use of these tools may hinder language development. These are to be used only as a last resort.
  2. Keep conversations simple and clear and speak at a slow, steady pace at the start of the recovery process. Proceed to complex conversations in step with your recovery.
  3. Stay calm: frustration is very common in many situations.
  4. Letothers know you have minor communication issues. This will ensure that they speak slowly and clearly.
  5. Take your time:do your utmost to communicate by yourself without the help of others.
  6. Smart phone apps may be a great help. Always stay connected with others for troubleshooting.
  7. Create a communication book that has pictures, symbols, and words. Internet enabled smart phones too are an excellent aid
  8. People around serious aphasia patients need to know that they are not unintelligent adults and they will improve slowly over months and at times years.

    Lastly, aphasia is part of a brain attack, which can be prevented from recurring by tending to the risk factors.

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